The HR challenge – employee engagement – keeping a remote workforce motivated

As we wake up to the “new normal” of home working or remote working, businesses are faced with the unprecedented challenge of employee engagement of a remote workforce. Before the outbreak of Covid 19 or as its better-known Coronavirus, working from home was seen as a perk, part of the company’s ability to offer flexible working. Now it is standard working life.

So how will companies across the UK and beyond cope with this momentous change? Add to that, the number of employees that have to fit their working lives around their children or parents they have to care for during this time, and, of course, those employees who will have to self-isolate. In any of these scenarios, the employer has a duty of care to its staff. Below are our four bits of advice for HR professionals during this tough time.

Learn from Italian Football

As we have all read Italy has been one of the hardest hit regions in Europe. People talk about the Italians being 2-3 weeks ahead of us in the terms of national quarantine and self-isolation of citizens to help address the spread of the virus. Their businesses have had to adapt and adapt quickly. So what can we learn from them?

One thing that they have been very quick to do is ensuring that they speak to their employees regularly to make sure they have everything they need at home to get their job done – One example of this is football clubs sending fitness equipment to their players at home so they can remain healthy and ready for the season to restart.

Not only that but they don’t want to lose the camaraderie that they spend so long building each year and as such have set up regular group chats, so the spirit and sense of team remains.

Businesses in the UK can look to this and try and implement these practises early. Ensuing that each employee has what they need including social interaction (even if virtual for the moment) is hugely important and something that should not be overlooked.

Consider the wider social group

Every employee is part of a bigger social network than just their office environment and this is now a key consideration HR teams are now having to be aware of. Given how many children, parents and dependents are now at home, it is vital that they are kept entertained. Offering employees discounts on entertainment services to keep the whole family entertained may come in useful.

In addition, the organisation should also think of the mental and physical well-being of the entire social group. Offering them access to physical and mental coaches can be hugely important. Not only that but for all those people who are having to self-isolate and live by themselves companies can also set up support groups in local neighbourhoods to help with food and medical supplies.

Don’t drop the daily routine

One of the other big challenges that organisations face is to make sure that their employees are all still feeling part of the team. Many companies have always questioned the benefits of remote working as it’s often considered to be the antithesis of collaborative teamwork. In addition, in today age where business culture is so important to so many employees, working from home takes away from that.

But for many, the choice has been taken out of our hands. Staff have been sent home and told to work from home where they can. Self-isolate or socially distance themselves from their colleagues, friends and family.  Just on the work front this can be a lonely time for many where they feel they have little to no support.

Companies must really step up their game in this area. There is some great technology on offer such as Microsoft teams, Google Hangouts, Zoom, and even WhatsApp that allow colleagues to stay in touch. Team meeting that used to take place over a coffee on a Monday morning can still happen, except everyone is sitting in their own home!

There needs to be a concerted effort made from employers, team leaders and employees to make sure that although much has changed, the things that make up the culture of your business don’t get forgotten by the wayside.

One of the best tools to ensure there is some normality is to continue the reward and recognition programme. Much of this is done online anyway, but it is very important to ensure that the team is feeling valued. Having an employee of the month, recognising your peers for the work they are doing or the additional support they are giving you.

In addition, companies need to address the types of rewards they offer. We cannot offer team lunches or drinks, but we can recognise individuals with e-cards, thank-you messages, and other forms of social recognition to keep up morale in the workplace.

Use what you have

Many companies go beyond standard salaries to help out their employees and differentiate themselves from their competitors. We need to remain creative, and think of ways of employee engagement to motivate our staff regardless of where they are based.

One of the most common ways this is done is through an employee discounts platform, offering access to discounts from high-street retailers, brands, entertainment and domestic support services. The challenge is that due to the Coronavirus outbreak no one is going to be able to use discounted cinema and theatre vouchers as social distancing kicks in, and now that restaurants and cafés have had to shut their doors, these discounts are, at least for now, redundant. HR have a challenge to make employee benefits both relevant and supportive to each of their employees.

As with all employee support functions the HR team has a significant challenge to manage their discount scheme and ensure it is offering its employees discounts and vouchers that will help them in this difficult time. Items such as supermarket discounts that can be used online, access to mental wellness or physical fitness coaches or simply takeaway delivery discounts. This is no longer about helping them spend money wisely but more about helping them cope with the increased anxiety and stress caused by a global pandemic.

That said, virtually all companies are still selling their products online and although delivery times may be longer and in some cases it’s pot luck to see if products are in stock, as long as your employees have access to the internet there are options.

We have all got to get used to the “new normal” but companies have a responsibility to their employees and using the existing platforms is a great way to not only connect with them but also make them feel valued and part of a team – no matter how disparate it is.

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Xexec is a leading Employee Benefits and Recognition provider championing workplace motivation and engagement. By offering over 3,000 discounts, a concierge service and global recognition platforms, we aim to increase productivity and employee motivation in the workplace.

For more information on how to support your staff with an effective employee recognition and employee engagement strategy, check out our e-book on how to build an effective recognition strategy.